Italy is one of Kazakhstan’s main European trading partners and the third overall after the Russian Federation and China. Trade turnover between the two countries exceeded $16 billion. Kazakh Ambassador in Italy Andrian Yelemessov explained how Italy and Kazakhstan cooperate in the spheres of economy, culture and education.
The first visit of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Rome in September 1994 created the foundation of Kazakh-Italian relations. Since then, cooperation between these countries has been driven by a new impetus and Italy has subsequently become one of Kazakhstan’s leading European partners. How do you assess the current stage of Kazakh-Italian relations?
Bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and Italy have a long history and cover many areas. Diplomatic relations were established in 1992. We successfully cooperate in all areas of politics, economy and culture. As the Kazakh Ambassador in Italy, I am particularly encouraged by the fact that our countries have no contradictions or disputes. Italy is a major investor in Kazakhstan – in the period from 2000 to 2013, the volume of Italian investments in Kazakhstan amounted to $6.1 billion.
There are about 400 companies with Italian participation which are involved in virtually all areas of Kazakhstan’s economy. For us, it is important that the Italian side also gives our country priority, seeing Kazakhstan as its main economic partner in Central Asia. This is evidenced by a significant intensification of contacts between the parties at the high level. In addition, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s visit to Kazakhstan in June 2014 gave the necessary impetus to bilateral trade and economic and investment cooperation, utilising the existing potential for increasing the volume of trade between the two countries.
I also want to note that in February, Rome held the seventh meeting of the Kazakh-Italian intergovernmental working group on industrial and economic cooperation and exchange, a good platform for the formation of the agenda of cooperation between the parties. The event was quite informative in identifying promising areas of cooperation. Today’s discussion affects virtually all areas of bilateral cooperation.
In your opinion, what areas of bilateral cooperation in the economic sphere are promising?
First of all, our interest is to actively involve Italian business in the implementation of the Kazakh programme of industrial-innovative development, as no doubt the latest Italian technology will be in demand in the Kazakh economy. Another high standard of economic development was set in last year’s presidential state-of-the-nation address on Nurly Zhol, which set out ambitious economic goals for the coming years and will enable foreign, including Italian companies to take part in the realisation of these objectives. Support is provided at all levels to create good working conditions in the Kazakh market.
Perspective areas in terms of development of economic cooperation are observed in the fields of engineering, agriculture, chemical industry and the development of alternative energy, where Italian businesses have a competitive advantage. Italy is a highly-industrialised country; as the third largest economy of the Euro zone, it has sufficient industry experience and is able to provide technology transfer and convey its know-how, which is necessary for the modernisation of Kazakh enterprises, creation of new production facilities and, as a consequence, increase the industrial potential of our country.
In addition to the importance of economic cooperation, partnership between Kazakhstan and Italy occupies a special place in terms of a cultural component. Could you elaborate on the development of relations in the cultural field?
In Italy, we see great interest in Kazakh culture and observe active work in this direction. Due to the assistance of the embassies of both countries, concerts and exhibitions have frequently been held. In March 2013 we organised the Days of Culture of Kazakhstan in Italy with the screening of “Kazakhstan – the Sky of My Childhood.” The programme was very intense and included the Days of Kazakh cinema and meetings with famous Kazakh actors and directors, a photo exhibition of modern Kazakhstan, an exhibition of craftsmanship and national costumes, presentations of books about Kazakh culture and way of life, concerts by a symphony orchestra and the National University of Arts orchestra of Kazakh folk instruments. Performances of Kazakhstan’s orchestras were held in the best concert halls in Italy, such as Milan’s Dal Verme, Teatro Verdi Florence, Turin Alfieri and the world-famous Roman scene auditorium.
The embassy maintains consistent and purposeful work on interaction with various Italian film festivals, cultural centers and foundations, including the Rome Film Festival Aziatikafilmmedia-le, Levante Interneshenel, Association Arte e Spettakolo, and others. Kazakhstan’s leading opera singers improve their skills in La Scala. Cooperation at the inter-university level has been developing successfully.
I am convinced that through culture and art we can learn more about each other, because culture, a living bridge between peoples, is not only common but also helps to know the inner world of our nations. We will try in the future to please our Italian friends with new and exciting projects.
Cooperation in the field of education plays a crucial role in bilateral relations. What are the most interesting areas of study for young Kazakhs who come to Italy?
The priority professions in the context of the general policy of our country, which is aimed at developing innovative technologies and industrial sectors, are the engineering profession and specialties related to the IT sector, with an area of nano- and biotechnologies. Medicine, ecology, chemical industry, architecture and design are also among the most popular subjects. And, of course, many talented guys from Kazakhstan travel to Italy to improve their arts knowledge in areas such as opera and stage skills.
Nowadays, the inter-university cooperation between Kazakhstan and Italy is developing successfully; for instance, within the framework of Tempus some of Kazakhstan’s universities collaborate with the University of Milan Santa Cuore in the field of social work management. Collaboration between the University of Ferrara and KIMEP University in the field of tax legislation is continuing to intensify. The Al-Farabi Kazakh National University is successfully cooperating with the University of Florence, Bologna University, University La Sapienza in Rome, Catania University, University of Padova and others. The cooperation agreement signed by the University of Trieste and the Polytechnic Institute in Karaganda provides for the exchange between students and teachers, as well as joint projects on energy conservation and new technologies. In May 2013, agreements on cooperation were signed between the Kazakh National Academy of Arts, T.K. Zhurgenov and the National Academy of Dramatic Arts of Silvio D’Amico and the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence to develop further cooperation in cultural, humanitarian and information fields.
At present, the question of signing agreements on cooperation between Kazakh and Italian universities such as the University of Perugia, University of Ca Foscari (Venice), University of Teramo, University of Genoa and the University of Pisa is being taken into consideration. In addition, this year the University of Pisa, the Polytechnic University of Milan and La Sapienza University of Rome were included in the list of leading foreign universities recommended for study in the framework of the 2015 Bolashak international scholarship. It is clear that there are strong ties between universities of the two countries; many students from Kazakhstan stay in Italy to continue their studies in the master’s programme. Thus, national and political diplomacy go hand in hand.